cover image If Ever I Return Again

If Ever I Return Again

Corinne Demas. HarperCollins Publishers, $15.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028717-7

At the helm of Demas's (The Disappearing Island, reviewed p. 79) historical novel is a courageous and intelligent narrator, 12-year-old Celia Snow. Setting sail on her father's whaling ship in 1856, Celia chronicles her two-year voyage in chatty letters home to her cousin and dearest friend, Abigail. Celia's letters pit her independent spirit against her proper mother, who insists on embroidery and Latin studies even at sea. But although Celia more readily soaks up her father's lessons on navigation, the novel's seaworthiness comes in part from the evolution of the relationship between Celia and her mother, who proves to have hidden strengths. The crew and other cast members prove salty,including a sinister first mate named Mr. Grimes; the ""despicable"" Jerusha Doane, a girl whom Celia meets in Honolulu; and Nate, the attractive third mate. Like the whales hunted by her father's crew, the exploits become larger than life as Celia battles storms, sickness, sorrow and the threat of mutiny. The epistolary form brings with it certain contrivances and some plot developments hinge on unlikely turns; this lacks the freshness of the similarly themed if simpler Good-bye for Today (reviewed above). Nevertheless, the relative novelty of the maritime setting may prove enough to steer fans of adventure and history through this journey. Ages 10-up. (June)